Defense secretary Lloyd Austin said he could not attend the Senate foreign relations committee hearing this morning because of a scheduling conflict but welcomed the invitation to testify.
However, the Democratic chairman of the committee, Bob Menendez, said he was given no prior warning about Austin’s scheduling issue.
“First time I heard that,” Menendez said of Austin’s claim, adding that he hoped the defense secretary would speak to his committee about the Afghanistan mission in the near future.
When asked by MSNBC whether he would move forward with subpoenaing Austin if he did not testify, Menendez replied, “I will do what is necessary to exercise that oversight function. I hope that in this case and in others, there will be cooperation because I expect to call others as well from the past.”
The Senate foreign relations committee held a hearing this morning on the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and Democrat Tim Kaine argued the US had unrealistic goals going into the war.
“We had good intentions about what we might have wanted in Afghanistan,” the Virginia senator said.
“But let’s face it: we can’t get 30% of Americans to get a vaccine. We can’t get 30% of Americans to acknowledge the results of a presidential election. Do we really think that we can determine what the culture of another country should be?”
Secretary of state Antony Blinken testified at the committee hearing, and defense secretary Lloyd Austin was invited to appear as well but declined to do so.
In response, committee chairman Bob Menendez warned that he may subpoena the defense secretary to get more information about the withdrawal operation and the Afghan military’s failure to push back against the Taliban’s territorial gains.
AOC responds to critics of Met Gala dress
Critics duly disparaged the move as hypocritical and tone deaf. The New York congresswoman, a leading House progressive, was happy to set the record straight.
“The medium is the message,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Instagram.
“NYC elected officials are regularly invited to and attend the Met due to our responsibilities in overseeing our city’s cultural institutions that serve the public. I was one of several in attendance. Dress is borrowed.”
Ocasio-Cortez was also determined to use the spotlight to reiterate her commitment to principles that have made her both an icon and a lightning rod on the national political scene, widely known by her initials, AOC.
“The time is now for childcare, healthcare and climate action for all,” she wrote. “Tax the Rich.”
On Tuesday, in response to further criticism, Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Instagram that she was accustomed to being “heavily and relentlessly policed from all corners politically”.
“Ultimately the haters hated and the people who are thoughtful were thoughtful,” she wrote. “But we all had a conversation about Taxing the Rich in front of the very people who lobby against it, and punctured the fourth wall of excess and spectacle.”
Some ancestors of Joe Biden enslaved people, according to a new genealogy of the 46th US president.
According to Alexander Bannerman, co-author with Gary Boyd Roberts of an article in American Ancestors Magazine, Biden’s great-great-great grandfather on his father’s side, Jesse Robinett, was listed in the 1800 census as enslaving two people in Allegany county, Maryland.
Bannerman also told Politico records show that in 1850, another Biden great-great-great grandfather in Maryland, Thomas Randle, enslaved a 14-year-old male. Randle was still listed as enslaving one man in 1860, a year before the outbreak of the American civil war, which ended with slavery abolished.
Maryland, a border state between slave-owning south and abolitionist north, stayed loyal to the union. Frederick Douglass was born into slavery there around 1818, before escaping and becoming perhaps the greatest abolitionist of the 19th century.
Bannerman also noted that Biden is distantly related to Jefferson Davis, president of the confederate states which seceded to defend slavery and were totally defeated.
But he said Biden’s ties to slavery did not make him an exception among Americans. In fact, Bannerman said, Biden had “not a lot of ancestors [who had] not a lot of slaves”.
The White House did not comment.
In summer 2020, as a presidential election was fought amid anti-racism protests and the defacement or removal of statues to Confederate figures and slaveowners, a meme circulated which purported to show a Biden ancestor who fought for the Confederacy.
Fact-checking sites determined the claim to be false, though links between Biden and the slave-owning Robinette family were raised. Biden’s middle name is Robinette, the spelling having varied from the Robinett listed in 1800.
Politico also cited past cases of prominent politicians being found to be descended from slaveholders, among them the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, and another prominent Irish American Democrat, Beto O’Rourke of Texas.
In 2019, as the former congressman ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Guardian reported the existence of “abundant documentation … of his and his wife Amy’s ancestors’ slave-owning and their support for the Confederacy”.
O’Rourke said: “Amy and I sat down and talked through this. How Andrew [Jasper, his ancestor] was able, through his descendants, to pass on the benefits of owning other human beings. And ultimately I and my children are beneficiaries of that.”
In a blogpost, he added: “We all need to know our own story as it relates to the national story, much as I am learning mine.”
FBI director Chris Wray is facing new scrutiny of the bureau’s handling of its 2018 background investigation of Brett Kavanaugh, including its claim that the FBI lacked the authority to conduct a further investigation into the then supreme court nominee.
At the heart of the new questions that Wray will face later this week, when he testifies before the Senate judiciary committee, is a 2010 Memorandum of Understanding that the FBI has recently said constrained the agency’s ability to conduct any further investigations of allegations of misconduct.
It is not clear whether that claim is accurate.
Woodward details Biden’s first steps in power
Bob Woodward’s third book on Donald Trump – the forthcoming Peril, written with Robert Costa, also of the Washington Post – also contains reporting on Joe Biden’s first months in power.
The Post reports that Biden’s “frustration with Joe Manchin”, the West Virginia senator who holds huge power in a Senate split 50-50, “is matched only by his debt to House majority whip James Clyburn of South Carolina”.
Biden is shown telling Manchin that regarding passage of the $1.9tn coronavirus stimulus bill in March this year, “if you don’t come along, you’re really fucking me”. As the Post puts it, “the measure ultimately cleared the Senate through an elaborate sequencing of amendments designed to satisfy the centrist Democrat”.
Clyburn, meanwhile, is reported to have made Biden’s promise to put a Black woman on the supreme court a non-negotiable condition of the endorsement that rocket-fuelled Biden’s candidacy after a poor start to the Democratic primary.
In a passage of heightened relevance in the aftermath of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Biden is reported to have said in 2009, “the military doesn’t fuck around with me”.
The same book which says the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff acted to thwart Trump shows Gen Mark Milley taking “a deferential approach to Biden on Afghanistan”.
“Here’s a couple of rules of the road here that we’re going to follow,” Milley is quoted as saying. “One is you never, ever ever box in a president of the United States. You always give him decision space.”
Milley is also reported to have called Biden “a seasoned politician here who has been in Washington DC 50 years, whatever it is.”
Biden is reported to have said Trump “isn’t really an American president”.
While all this was coming out, Trump was issuing a statement seeking to cast doubt on the propriety of the California recall election, which most expect the Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, to survive.
Experience suggests we might expect a statement about Woodward, Milley and Biden some time rather soon.
Today so far
Here’s where the day stands so far:
- Senate Democrats unveiled a new voting rights bill that would make Election Day a federal holiday and require states to offer same-day registration by 2024. The legislation is unlikely to become law unless Democrats alter the Senate filibuster, and moderates like Joe Manchin, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, have given no indication they would support such a proposal.
- California is holding its recall election today to determine whether Democratic governor Gavin Newsom will be allowed to remain in office. Newsom held a campaign rally last night in Long Beach alongside Joe Biden, who warned that Republican candidate Larry Elder is a “clone of Donald Trump”. “Can you imagine him being governor of this state? You can’t let that happen,” Biden said.
- Bob Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate foreign affairs committee, threatened to subpoena defense secretary Lloyd Austin for information about the Afghanistan withdrawal. Menendez said he was “very disappointed” that Austin declined the committee’s request to testify at this morning’s hearing on the withdrawal operation. “I expect the secretary will avail himself to the committee in the near future,” Menendez said. “And if he does not, I may consider the use of committee subpoena power to compel him, and others over the course of these last twenty years, to testify.”
The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
The date Saturday 9 October 2021 might go down in political history. Or at least that is what Donald Trump would like you to believe.
That night, Trump will hold a rally in Iowa, the celebrated launchpad for US presidential candidates, the state that goes first in the major parties’ selection process and that is already drawing potential contenders for the Republican nomination in 2024.
Trump’s ability to draw raucous crowds there will only fuel speculation that, despite his first term ending in defeat and disgrace, the 75-year-old intends to exact revenge by recapturing the White House from Democrat Joe Biden.
No one knows if this is true – quite possibly not even Trump himself. But the tease over 2024 suits Trump just fine on multiple levels. It keeps him relevant as the dominant figure in the Republican party. It keeps cash flowing from donors still devoted to his cause. And it flatters an ego that has always craved celebrity and being at the centre of attention.
Read the Guardian’s full report:
Top US general feared Trump would go ‘rogue’ and launch nuclear attack after election loss, new Woodward book claims
Legendary journalist Bob Woodward and Robert Costa are out with a book that includes new details on Donald Trump’s final days in office.
Two days after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, President Donald Trump’s top military adviser, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, single-handedly took top-secret action to limit Trump from potentially ordering a dangerous military strike or launching nuclear weapons, according to ‘Peril,’ a new book by legendary journalist Bob Woodward and veteran Washington Post reporter Robert Costa.
Woodward and Costa write that Milley, deeply shaken by the assault, ‘was certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election, with Trump now all but manic, screaming at officials and constructing his own alternate reality about endless election conspiracies.’
Milley worried that Trump could ‘go rogue,’ the authors write.
‘You never know what a president’s trigger point is,’ Milley told his senior staff, according to the book.
In response, Milley took extraordinary action, and called a secret meeting in his Pentagon office on January 8 to review the process for military action, including launching nuclear weapons. Speaking to senior military officials in charge of the National Military Command Center, the Pentagon’s war room, Milley instructed them not to take orders from anyone unless he was involved.
During the Senate foreign relations committee hearing on Afghanistan, Republican Jim Risch pursued a bizarre line of questioning about whether White House staffers have the power to “press the button” and cut off Joe Biden’s mic while speaking to reporters.
Secretary of state Antony Blinken appeared bemused by the line of questioning, telling Risch, “There is no such person. Again, the president speaks for himself.”
Risch’s questions appeared to be in response to a New York Post article about Biden’s mic cutting out toward the end of a press pool spray yesterday.
But as CNN’s Daniel Dale noted, there was nothing unusual about the incident: